Days in paradise are now numbered

I'VE been gazing at the Keppel islands and the unbeatable horizon, dotted with ever-changing landmarks, for 10 years and have never seen it up close.

Then, last Saturday, I took a cruise with Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance.

Joining about 80 fellow voyagers on board the Freedom Adventurer, we headed south to check out Keppel Bay and the Fitzroy Delta, taking in locations earmarked for development.

We travelled on bumpy seas between Emu Park and Pelican, Wedge and Divided islands before gently rolling past Peak Island, the world's second-largest Flatback Turtle rookery. Located in a Preservation (Pink) Zone, Peak Island has been off limits to locals for years, due to its scientific significance.

The proposed construction of an Xstrata coal export terminal, which would include a rail spur stretching out into the bay close to Peak Island, was the reason KAFDA was formed and now the possibility of huge ships queuing a mere 6km away to load with coal, before wallowing back over the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, is what has raised concerns for locals.

A large cargo ship was spotted just off Hummocky Island and KAFDA spokeswoman Ginny Gerlach announced it was only a fraction of the size of the ones expected to anchor off Peak Island.

Heading through The Narrows, we passed the deep water port at the mouth of the Fitzroy, Port Alma, which is used primarily to transport tallow, military equipment and ammonium nitrate.

A bit further on we could see Balaclava Island, a low-lying expanse of mangroves and the proposed location for the Xstrata coal export terminal.

After a delicious lunch by Another Green World, we beached at Sea Hill on Curtis Island, where Matthew Flinders set foot, and a heritage-listed lighthouse, quarantine station and a small cemetery still stand.

Rich in local history and a popular day trip destination for the Rockhampton social set, back in the days before the railway to the coast had been built, Sea Hill has been designated for industrial expansion by Gladstone Ports Authority.

Today, UNESCO arrives in Gladstone to assess the impacts development is having on the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and surrounding marine park.


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